Pro-democracy activists gathered at the Japanese Embassy on Tuesday to counter demands by royalist groups for the extradition of self-exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun.
Royalist groups such as Thai Phakdee (Loyal Thai) previously submitted documents to the embassy, demanding that Japan take action against Pavin, a critic of the monarchy and military who fled to Japan after the 2014 coup.
The royalists wanted the government to hand over Pavin or stop him from expressing his opinions on social media, where he runs the Facebook group Royalist Marketplace, which has more than a million members. Facebook has blocked the page in Thailand in response to threats of legal action by the Thai government. Pavin promptly set up a new group, which gained more than half a million mainly Thai users in a single day.
Royalist groups have also demanded that Kyoto University, where Pavin lectures, sack the Thai academic.
In response, pro-democracy activists under the Khun Phra Chuay banner rallied at the embassy in solidarity with Pavin and called on Thai authorities to respect freedom of speech. Protest leader Panupong “Mike Rayong” Chadnok reportedly joined the rally after being released from detention on charges including sedition yesterday.
The activists said ultra-royalists were exceeding their authority by claiming to speak for the monarchy and ordering people around. They pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of thought and political preference and had been adopted by the United Nations – of which Thailand is a member. According to the Declaration, Pavin had not committed an offence, they said, adding that if Japan bowed to the demands of royalists it could destroy a relationship between Thailand and Japan that has lasted more than 130 years.